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‘Sanral must come clean’

The alliance against the controversial Gauteng e-tolling system has expressed concern over the government’s intentions to persist with the introduction of “this most wasteful and inefficient funding mechanism”.

This came after Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe revealed this week that the government was considering pumping money into Sanral to help it service its R20 billion e-tolling debt until the battle over the Gauteng freeway system is resolved.

A toll gate on the N1 North just before the Beyers Naude offramp in Gauteng. Photo: Dumisani Sibeko. Credit: Independent Newspapers

Motlanthe leads a team of ministers tasked with finding short-term funding solutions and dealing with the legal dispute over e-tolling.

The government has applied to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal against the Pretoria High Court decision that imposed a moratorium on e-tolling pending a review of the decision.

The government faced widespread outrage and resistance to implementing e-tolling, including protests led by the ANC’s alliance partner, Cosatu.

Motlanthe made it clear, however, that Sanral’s debt would have to be paid.

“The delay in collecting toll fees has resulted in Sanral not being able to meet its contractual and financial obligations,” he said. “The reality is the roads have been built, the tolling structure is in place and the debt has to be repaid.”

Yesterday, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance said it found the remarks from Motlanthe on e-tolling “interesting on several fronts”.

“In particular… were the indications, based on estimates from Moodys, that Sanral could be losing monthly between R270 million and R500m. One would have thought that Sanral itself could have given more detail about the nature and extent of their monthly commitments without the government relying on estimates from a rating agency,” said the alliance’s chairman Wayne Duvenage.

“Indeed much greater transparency about Gauteng’s Freeway Improvement Project costs and operating model, along with funding obligations and the effect on Sanral’s debt of the R5.8bn transfer by Treasury earlier this year during the Budget speech, might well give more confidence to both road users and rating agencies.”

The alliance said the government had lost an opportunity to clarify the definition of “user pay”, how and where it would be applied.

The alliance said the user pay examples of water, electricity and telephone payments were applied nationally and with consistency, unlike the e-tolling which is applied to a mere 185km of road.

The alliance said although it had not yet formally been approached by the cabinet task team, it remained willing to meet to discuss the most efficient funding mechanism for all national roads .

Outa is expected to file its replying papers on Monday in response to the government’s application to appeal against the Pretoria High Court’s decision to interdict e-tolling directly to the Constitutional Court. - Saturday Star

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